Press-Republican

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May 9, 2013

Cash handling criticized in Essex County sheriff, probation departments

ELIZABETHTOWN — State audits of both the Essex County Sheriff’s Department and the County Probation Department recommend tightening controls over collection of cash paid for bail, fees, surcharges and fines.

Although all funds are accounted for, the audits showed that cash paid by people to the two departments should have been handled more securely, the Comptroller’s Office said.

In some cases, probation officers who had forgotten to bring receipt pads with them to meetings with probationers simply wrote informal receipts on scraps of paper and gave those to people when cash was paid for restitution, alcohol-monitoring fees and other costs.

OVERDRAFT

In the Sheriff’s Department, cash paid for bail and civil judgments “was not properly accounted for, secured and deposited in a timely manner,” the audit said.

That resulted in a civil office overdraft of more than $6,000 in August 2012, the report said. In another case, $2,000 in bail payments was not deposited for three months.

Also, the computer program in use allowed users to delete or modify entries at will.

“I want to point out that there were no discrepancies with any funds passing through our office,” Sheriff Richard Cutting told the Press-Republican. “All monies coming in were handled and were accounted for appropriately.”

He said their computer program did have control registers in effect but not in a format that was in keeping with what the auditors wanted.

“IT (County Information Technology Department) is working on a new system to fulfill that recommendation.”

VERIFICATIONS

The audit recommended that no single person be allowed to control all phases of a transaction. The monthly check register should also be verified by the sheriff, undersheriff or chief deputy, the report said, because that was not being done on a consistent basis.

Cash bail is locked in a safe that at least nine people had the combination to, the audit noted. Cash receipts were not issued in sequentially numbered order.

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